According to a Delhi Police assessment, none of Mukherjee Nagar’s coaching facilities have a fire NOC.
The recent fire incident at a coaching centre in Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi, has drawn attention to the alarming lack of fire and safety compliance in the city’s coaching institutions. On June 15, a fire broke out at a coaching centre, leaving 61 students injured. Mukherjee Nagar, known as Delhi’s coaching hub, has been grappling with multiple safety issues, including loose overhead wires, tilted electric poles, congested lanes, and deteriorating buildings. The incident has shed light on the need for strict adherence to safety norms in this part of the city.
In response to the fire incident, the Delhi High Court took suo moto cognizance and directed the Delhi Police, the fire department, and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to conduct a comprehensive survey of all coaching institutes in the city. The aim was to assess whether these institutions were compliant with the safety norms set forth under Delhi’s Master Plan 2021.
As per the Master Plan-2021, coaching centres are allowed to operate but must adhere to specific criteria, including minimum area requirements, standardised construction and structural norms, and obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire department.
In compliance with the court’s directive, the Delhi Police surveyed 53 coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar and made a concerning discovery. None of the institutes possessed a no-objection certificate from the fire department, indicating their non-compliance with the safety guidelines. Similarly, the Delhi Fire Service conducted an audit and found violations in most of the approximately 500 units they surveyed.
Delhi Fire Service Chief Atul Garg stated that his department formed six teams to survey all coaching centres after the fire incident. The violations found were concerning, pointing to a lack of proper fire safety measures in these establishments. The findings have been presented in a report submitted to the court.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) also took action and issued show-cause notices to 896 properties, including coaching centres, for various violations related to fire safety, building norms, and conversion charges. Of these properties, 137 notices were specifically issued in the Mukherjee Nagar area. Some coaching centres voluntarily vacated the premises upon receiving notices, while others are currently in the process of filing their replies. MCD officials have sealed four units so far, and the enforcement action will continue over the next 30 days based on compliance with the Delhi High Court’s order.
A key criterion for assessing fire safety in these coaching centres is the width of the staircase, the availability of separate entry and exit gates, and the presence of fire safety equipment. The standard width of the staircase should be at least 5 feet, but many of the surveyed places had narrower staircases of 2.5 to 3 feet.
As a consequence of the fire incident and the subsequent actions taken by authorities, many coaching centres in Mukherjee Nagar have been forced to shut down or face closure by the police. This has caused immense disruption to the education of thousands of students who have come to Delhi from various parts of the country with aspirations of cracking civil service exams and other competitive tests.
The current situation underscores the urgent need for comprehensive safety audits and regulatory oversight of coaching centres across Delhi. These institutions play a crucial role in shaping the careers of students, and their safety and well-being must be prioritised.
To address the safety concerns effectively, the concerned authorities must work together to ensure strict compliance with fire safety norms and building regulations. Additionally, there is a need to educate coaching centre operators about the importance of adhering to safety guidelines and obtaining the necessary certifications.
The government should consider providing support and incentives to coaching centres that demonstrate exemplary adherence to safety norms. Conversely, those found in violation of safety regulations should face stringent penalties and, if necessary, closures.
Furthermore, the Master Plan 2021 should be revisited to ensure that it provides clear and enforceable guidelines for coaching centres. This may include setting specific safety standards, mandating regular inspections, and creating a mechanism for the timely issuance of no-objection certificates.
The government and regulatory bodies must collaborate closely with coaching centres to create a safe and conducive learning environment. Fire drills, safety awareness programmes, and training sessions on handling emergencies should be made mandatory for both staff and students.
The responsibility also falls on students to be vigilant and voice their concerns about safety lapses to the authorities. They can play a significant role in fostering a culture of safety in their institutions.
In conclusion, the fire incident in a coaching centre in Mukherjee Nagar has brought to the fore the critical issue of fire and safety compliance in Delhi’s coaching institutions. The lack of no-objection certificates and violations of safety norms pose a significant risk to the lives of students and staff. The authorities must act swiftly to conduct thorough safety audits, enforce regulations, and ensure that all coaching centres prioritise fire safety measures. It is essential to create a secure learning environment for students and uphold the highest standards of safety and compliance in these institutions. Only through a collective effort can Delhi become a city where coaching centres offer an enriching learning experience without compromising on safety.